Turkey needs the international community’s help

| March 22, 2016 | 0 Comments
A Syrian girl waits next to relief help at Suruc City, Turkey. (Photo: Caroline Gluck/EU/ECHO)

A Syrian girl waits next to relief help at Suruc City, Turkey. (Photo: Caroline Gluck/EU/ECHO)

The world is witnessing one of the biggest refugee crises since the Second World War and Turkey stands at the centre of it. Half of Syria’s population, approximately 12 million people, are displaced; and almost half of them seek refuge in neighbouring countries such as mine.
Turkey did not stay indifferent to the humanitarian tragedies taking place at its borders. It is hosting more than 2.7 million Syrians and 300,000 Iraqis. That is the highest number of people hosted by a single country in the world today.
As of March 2016, 282,815 Syrians and 12,000 Iraqis are being housed in 25 protection centres. The rest, who live outside the camps, are also under Turkey’s temporary protection regime. So far, 151,746 Syrian babies have been born in Turkey. An average of 110 babies are born every day in protection centres alone. More than 11 million medical consultations and 320,000 surgical operations have been carried out for Syrians in Turkish hospitals. The average number of daily admission applications to health centres is approximately 10,000. There are nearly 600,000 school-age Syrian children in Turkey. Unfortunately, just 250,000 of them are receiving an education. Efforts are continuing to link the rest to the Turkish education system.

UNHCR workers serve lunch to refugees in the Akcakale camp in southern Turkey. (Photo: UNHCR A. Branthwaite)

UNHCR workers serve lunch to refugees in the Akcakale camp in southern Turkey. (Photo: UNHCR A. Branthwaite)

Our aid to Syria and Iraq is not limited to the assistance activities in Turkey, but also extends beyond our borders. In addition to taking supplies to the border so Syrians can take them into the country and provide for those living in IDP camps on the Syrian side of the border, Turkey has established three camps in northern Iraq for civilians who fled to the north because of the DAESH [IS] terror organization. We continuously deliver humanitarian assistance to sustain those camps in Syria and Iraq.
The figures speak for themselves. This situation is not sustainable. Having provided a haven for those escaping persecution throughout centuries — Holocaust victims are but one example — Turkey has mobilized its resources and shared its national capabilities since Day 1. We have already spent more than US $10 billion, while assistance provided by the international community amounts to only US $455 million. Syrians in Turkey are provided with food, non-food items, health care, educational services, psychological support, vocational training and social activities in temporary protection centres and, as much as possible, in urban areas. In such an environment, the government recently adopted legislation that allows work permits to Syrians.
Turkey does not need help for itself; it is the Syrians who need help. Despite all of its challenges, Turkey continues its open-door policy without any religious and ethnic discrimination towards those escaping from the brutality of the Syrian regime and terror organizations. As a responsible member of the international community, we will continue to help them, with or without the help of the world.
Unfortunately, global response has failed. The international community finally realized the seriousness of this crisis only when the body of Alan Kurdi washed ashore on the Aegean coast, and thousands of hopeless refugees knocked on their doors. Alan was not, and is not, the only child who has died while trying to reach another country. The number of those who attempt dangerous journeys — the prey of human smugglers — across the Mediterranean to European shores is dramatically rising. It is because they are losing hope.
On the subject of dangerous journeys across the Aegean Sea, the Turkish Coast Guard initiated enhanced operations and allocated more national resources to save more lives at sea. In 2015, the number of people rescued increased fivefold compared to 2014. The Turkish Coast Guard rescued more than 70,000 migrants at sea and apprehended hundreds of smugglers in 2015. The number of migrants apprehended while attempting to cross Turkish territory between 2005 and 2015, has topped a half million.
The world should help Syria’s neighbours help Syria, as should the UN. Proper funding for the implementation of the UN’s “no lost generation strategy” is essential to save future generations.
An EU-Turkey action plan was agreed to at the EU-Turkey summit in November 2015. In line with this plan, Turkey has introduced visa requirements for Syrian nationals coming from third countries. And, as a part of the action plan, the EU decided to increase its co-ordination with Turkey for joint efforts vis-à-vis this humanitarian crisis, and pledged three billion euros to support projects that would improve the living conditions of Syrians in Turkey. This promise was confirmed during the January visit of Federica Mogherini, high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy, and Johannes Hahn, commissioner for European neighbourhood policy and enlargement. At the Turkey-EU Summit held on March 7, 2016, the progress made in the implementation of the Joint Action Plan regarding illegal migration was welcomed by all parties. Turkey suggested some proposals for burden sharing and they are being discussed with the hope of finalization at the earliest opportunity.
Canada is playing a commendable role in responding to this crisis. The first plane carrying Syrian refugees from Turkey landed in Canada in January. We have to help everybody without discrimination.
The current humanitarian efforts can only temporarily mitigate the effects of this crisis in the short and medium term. A sustainable and long-term solution to the refugee problem can only be attained if the root causes of the Syrian conflict are solved. Without a negotiated political solution, this tragedy will only continue to cause massive waves of migration. As you read this, thousands of Syrians of Arab and Turkmen origin are entering Turkey due to the deteriorating situation in northern Syria.
Turkey has been supporting peace talks in Geneva and is hopeful for a resolution. But while being hopeful, we have to remember one thing: There is nothing stronger than a mother’s wish to save her child from a certain death. We, all the responsible members of the international community, must help that child to save our joint future.

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